Friday, March 6, 2015

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Garbology: It is More than Just Trash

by Andrea Annas TpT Store: History Gal

Imagine spending your days sifting through trash at a local landfill. What would you find? What could the trash tell you about the people who used that landfill? Strangely enough, this is no fictional job. It is the real job of a garbologist.

A garbologist studies a culture by sifting through its trash. Garbologists are like archaeologists, but instead of examining the remains of ancient civilizations, they study the trash of modern cultures. By digging through the trash, garbologists learn what a culture eats and drinks, what they do for fun, what the culture considers trash, and much more.

William Rathje and the Study of Trash

William Rathje is widely regarded as the father of garbology. In 1973 as a professor of Anthropology at the University of Arizona, Rathje and his students began the Garbage Project by sorting through the trash at a Tucson, Arizona landfill. Before his death in 2012, Rathje excavated over fifteen landfills, catalogued every piece of trash found, and wrote many books including Rubbish: the Archaeology of Garbage. He learned that trash gives garbologists a better understanding of modern culture than surveys and interviews.

Ask your students:

Why do you think trash gives a more accurate picture than surveys and interviews?
 Do you always tell the truth when you take a survey? Why or why not?

Next, have students watch the short video Garbage Doesn’t Lie followed by a short video that shows garbology in action. Younger students may enjoy watching PBS’s Dragonfly episode about Garbology.

     Rathje’s Garbage Project in Tucson and the others that followed also proved that, contrary to popular belief, waste in landfills did not biodegrade. Since most students have little understanding of what actually happens to their trash once the garbage truck picks it up, have them watch or read How Stuff Works’ How Landfills Work. Then, students can listen to the first 4 minutes of This American Life’s episode about Garbage. Another interesting video you may want students to watch is a 21 minute video called The Story of Stuff which takes a look at product and consumption patterns.

Since the start of Rathje’s Garbage Project in 1973, garbology has become more widely accepted in the science and anthropological fields. Critics who once mocked and ridiculed garbology were surprised at its findings and research applications. One of the greatest legacies of Rathje’s Garbage Project is its impact on waste management. Garbologists learned that waste in landfills including paper and food does not biodegrade. Because of these findings, cities are changing their waste management plans, instituting recycling programs, and educating their citizens about how to reduce the amount of waste going into area landfills. 

A Garbology Project

Rathje’s Garbage Project started with the idea of using modern trash to help students understand the archaeological process and it grew from there. Most middle or high school students will not have the opportunity to participate in a real archaeological dig. However, assigning students a garbology project is a great way for students to gain a hands-on archaeological experience while learning what an anthropologist does. Do not worry; your students do not have to venture into a landfill to do garbology! They can do it in their school, place of work, place of worship, and even their own home. For an example of a student project, your students can check out what volunteers at the University of Washington do during the UW Garbology Project. Here, you can also view the analysis of a University of Washington’s dorm waste and view pictures.

To begin the project, students, either individually, in partners, or in small groups, must choose a place (a culture) to examine. They must first gain permission from the culture before they begin sifting through their trash. Students should examine the culture’s trash several different times and keep a record of when they visited the dig site as well as everything found. The more times the groups visit their sites and examine its trash, the more accurate their results. Once students finish their digs, they should organize their findings into a spreadsheet or graph. Then, students should use the data to create conclusions about what the trash tells them about the culture. Lastly, students should present their findings to the class. Presentations can take a variety of forms. Students can create PowerPoint presentations, give oral reports, create a video, and much more.

     Students participating in a garbology project need to be familiar with the Code of Ethics of the American Anthropological Association. In particular, they should abide by Section 1: Do No Harm. Anthropologists have an important responsibility to the people with whom the researchers work and whose lives and cultures they study. Anthropologists must deliberately and purposefully consider all long-term impacts and unintentional consequences of their actions upon the culture they are studying. This means that students must guard the identities of names on any personal items that they might come across. Their project should not embarrass or cause anyone harm. Doing so directly violates the Code of Ethics.

A culture’s trash is more than just waste. The trash of ancient and older civilizations uncovered by archaeologists helps us learn more about their cultures. In the same manner, the trash in modern landfills provides just as much insight into our modern cultures. Now, start digging and see what you discover!

Resources from History Gal's TpT Store:

A free, downloadable resource which provides a fun review game for D-Day Details!

Provides a lesson which ties St. Patrick's Day to the story of Irish Immigration.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

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Women's History Month

by Rachel Cummings TpT Store: Writing by Rachel

March is Women’s History Month, but why should history teachers have all the fun? History’s bookshelf is full of literature written by women, characters and poems inspired by women, and works of fiction and nonfiction that reflect women’s experiences. This month, encourage students to slip on a different critical lens and to read poetry and prose with an eye to gender. What do they learn about women’s experiences from the written word? They may be surprised by what they find beneath the words of a poem or short story. 

The Hook—Defining ‘man’ and ‘woman’

What does it mean to be a ‘man’ or a ‘woman’? That question is sure to spark a lively conversation! But, it has academic merit and can be the basis for a thoughtful, historic peek at literature.

Ask students, in pairs, to brainstorm the roles, responsibilities, and activities that define ‘man’ and ‘woman.’ They can record their thoughts on a note-taking sheet that has two spheres, one labeled ‘man’ and one labeled ‘woman.’  (Like a Venn diagram, but without the overlapping center section.) Instruct students to record in both spheres for each topic/question they discuss. Students may want to use the following questions to guide their discussions: 
  • What personality traits describe ‘man’ and ‘woman?’ 
  • Do females have responsibilities outside the home? Doing what?
  • What do women do within the home?
  • What do women read?
  • What hobbies are appropriate for women? What careers?
  • Are men or women restricted, if so in what ways, and for what reasons? 
After students have contemplated what it means to be a man or a woman, ask them to discuss their ideas. Are there descriptors that fit both ‘man’ and ‘woman?’ Are there descriptors they used for ‘man’ or for ‘woman’ but not for both?

Explain to students that in the 19th century, men and women were considered opposites, i.e.: men were physically strong—women were weak; men were stoic—women were emotional and sensitive. Ask students to create a new set of gender spheres. This time, direct them to think of ‘man’ and ‘woman’ as opposites. How would ‘man’ and ‘woman’ be described this time around? Consider careers, activities, emotions, responsibilities, and innate traits. What dichotomies emerge? How have the cultural expectations of what it means to “be a man” or “act like a lady” changed over time?

The Application—Reading Critically

Will students’ newly found understanding of the complexities and changing ideas about gender better help them understand and appreciate what a work of fiction reveals about gender? Introduce students to Kate Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour.” Virginia Commonwealth University shares a hypertext with study notes. When readers click on a red phrase, a study note box appears at the top of the page (students may have to scroll up to see those for boxes at the bottom of the story.) The study notes show readers how phrases and words impart clues. Have students consider the questions asked in the study notes and discuss them as they read.

Critical reading is dynamic because it encourages a variety of evidence-based interpretations. Students will appreciate this if they are exposed to several valid, though different, readings of the story. After reading, lead students in a discussion related to gender. As always, challenge students to cite evidence from the text to support their responses. Discussion questions might include: 
  • When is this story set?
  • What does this story reveal about men's and women’s roles at that time?
  • How are men and women depicted in the story?
  • Who has power and who does not—in what ways?
  • Does this story have a gender message?
Having used a hypertext and analyzed what “The Story of an Hour” says about gender, let students analyze a poem on their own. The University of Pennsylvania shares a digital library of anthems written by abolitionist Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Have students read “To the Indifferent Women,” “The Housewife,” and “Women to Men.” Direct students to Sojourner Truth’s poem “Ain’t I a Woman,” Deborah Garrison’s “Please Fire Me,” and Marge Piercy’s “For Strong Women. “ Consider having students use the Library of Congress’ Thinking about Poems as Historical Artifacts worksheet to guide their work. Students can create their own ‘hypertext’ by recording their thoughts on post-its and attaching them to the text. Or, present students with a collection of questions to guide their work. Perhaps:
  • What is going on in this poem?
  • What do you think this poem says about women?
  • What details, images, or lines give you this impression?
  • What questions do you have about this poem?
  • What did you most appreciate about this poem?
  • Why do you think the author penned this poem?
  • Compared to another poem, how are the two similar and different?
  • Which poem did you prefer and why?
  • How does this poem compare to “The Story of an Hour”?
  • Explain how you think American’s ideas about men and women have changed since Kate Chopin wrote her story? 
Tomorrow’s History—Today

It’s all well and good to think about how history has treated women, but what about today? How do contemporary beliefs about gender limit men's and women’s experiences? What do contemporary lyrics reveal about gender? Consider showing students Maddie and Tae’s tongue-in-cheek video for their song, “Girl in a Country Song.” If your preview of the video determines it is inappropriate for your students, share the lyrics and the video but with audio only. Challenge students to examine it using the Library of Congress’ Thinking About Songs as Historical Artifacts worksheet. (If they watch the video, they can include that for the ‘look’ of the song.)

What are your students’ favorite songs? That question will elicit a long list of nominations. What messages do the lyrics to those songs convey about gender? Ask them to apply their critical eye—and the Library of Congress worksheet—to a contemporary song. Moderate a class discussion:
  • Who is the song’s audience?
  • What did they discover about contemporary lyrics?
  • What words are used to describe women and men—their looks, actions, habits…? Record these.
  • What trends emerge when they compare their analysis to what their classmates discovered about other lyrics?
  • What do students think about these trends?
  • What messages do the songs convey?
  • How do they break or support gender stereotypes?
  • How do they think these messages influence the audience? Do they consider their song helpful? Harmful? To whom and why?
  • What do they think future generations of students examining today’s attitudes will conclude?
  • How do they hope thoughts about gender will change during their lifetime?
  • What can they do to help this be so?
Finally, challenge students individually or in pairs either to write an ode celebrating what they appreciate about men or women (or a particular man or woman), or to write the lyrics to a song.

Reading critically—be it primary documents or fiction—offers students a window through which they may understand texts deeply. Historical documents become more than old. Fiction becomes more than stories. History is today.  

Resources from Writing by Rachel's TpT Store:

A free, downloadable resource that guides students through the process of predicting, interpreting, connecting and questioning as they read.

Provides activities that can be used with any word list.  Helps refresh and invigorate your vocabulary instruction!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

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"Let's Get Creative: Writing Across the Curriculum -- Humanities Style!"

by Gina Perfetto TpT Store: PerfettoWritingRoom

Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) is an essential component in middle and high schools across the country for a number of reasons. But simply put: students learn to write well by writing often.

Interdisciplinary writing strengthens critical thinking, the ability to express complex thoughts on paper, and verbal communication.  It prepares students for myriad future writing and professional scenarios, from college and vocational writing to professional documents.

But here’s a question: How do we make it fun and challenging?

Scoff at the Notion of Creative Writing as “Too Simple”! 

What is great about this lesson is that it challenges students to write descriptively, figuratively, and creatively. Fun? Absolutely. Easy… not so much. So often people see this and other creative writing lessons that look fun, or even – dare I say -- simple? and think that students aren’t learning. To that I say: do not judge a lesson plan by its props! Rather ask: “What skills are your students applying during this lesson?”
Writing Across the Curriculum: Critical Thinking through Creative Writing

This wonderfully challenging activity also happens to be a perennial creative writing favorite of my students. Since it is adaptable for a multitude of Humanities and Science disciplines, today I am sharing this lesson with you from a HUMANITIES PERSPECTIVE. Try this one day soon! I guarantee your students will love it. Click here to download a free version of the lesson from my TpT Store.

In Brief: This lesson emphasizes four of the five senses, critical thinking skills, inferencing, estimation, literary devices, etc. Students will write through a series of steps while guided by the instructor; these steps are given to you here.  Begin with a single paragraph, skipping lines between each step, and end with a full length story.

  • Minimum of one item for each student
  • One brown paper bag per item so that items are not visible
  • Items chosen are dependent upon the lesson and discipline 
  • Instructions, step by step
  • Plenty of paper
  • One class period for this portion
  • One class period for sharing 
  • Optional class period for draft writing, polishing, etc.

Ideal for: English Class; Humanities such as Archaeology, Social Studies, Ancient History, World Cultures, etc.; Religion; Sciences such as biology; and others.

As an English teacher, I already have some wonderful items in brown paper bags. Because it is essential that students utilize many of their senses, I am careful to include diverse items.Here are of my more confounding and exceptional finds, placed in separate bags over the years.

EXAMPLES of great items I have used in the past include: 
  • Old plastic film cases (remember those?) with something else inside
  • Beaded or charm bracelets
  • Natural items - pine cones, rocks that have odd crevices or stripes, a knot of wood, a shell, etc.
  • Magnifying glass 
  • Calculator 
  • Perfume vial or test tube with a cork
  • Fishing fly or lure (made safe)
  • Small camera (old, not a modern one)
  • Wooden 3-dimensional puzzle from the dollar store
Writing As an Archaeologist or Anthropologist! Get your Hats on!

By all means, add a layer of excitement by bringing in some items on your own, but have students bring in items as well. This way, students will be excited about each other’s choices.

Regardless of Discipline, when choosing items, PLEASE consider: texture, weight, surface temperature, the sound the items make when struck lightly on a table, hollowness, solidity, smoothness, flexibility or rigidity, general size, dimension and angularity, and other features. Finally, wherever you can, place one item inside of another item. This adds a dimension of mystery to step one. I hope you are beginning to understand how this diversity of criteria stretches the mind’s ability to write, infer, and describe.

What you place in the mystery bags for the Archaeology or Anthropology Discovery Writing might depend on items that might actually fit in with a specific site or dig you’d like to discuss, or they could just go with the overall theme. In this case anything goes, and you could include some of these items.
  • old coins
  • shark teeth
  • pottery shards
  • worn brick
  • other building materials
  • sedimentary, igneous or shale rocks
  • shells
  • beads
  • metal bowls
  • glass vials
  • jewelry
  • stylus or writing implements
If you are going to take collections from the class beforehand, ask your students “What items might say something about a people or civilization and how they lived?” or “What items, if found, might reveal something about the landscape long ago?”

These questions might help students bring in more appropriate items in a brown paper bag. It will make your life easier, and make them more excited about the project.

GET STARTED!  *We all Like a Little Drama!*

When students enter, they must NOT sit. Rather, they will all walk around their desks, placing their hands inside each bag, quietly feeling the contents of each bag. No talking or peeking inside! Each student must choose the item they think would be the most interesting to write about. The mystery of the entire endeavor is what piques students' interest. Once students have chosen, they will sit down with the bags and the items STILL safely inside. 

Step One: 
Instructions:  While the students have one hand inside the bag, tell them: "Write a tactile description using your hand and all of your faculties. Oh, but definitely do not use your eyes!"
     This means they can weigh it, feel for texture, knock it on the desk, roll it around, shake it, etc. After they have written for at least three minutes, give them these prompts: “Class I also want you to do two more things. 1. Try to guess what it is. 2. Can you infer, based on the information you currently have, what color it might be?”

Step one requires students to stretch their descriptive writing and critical thinking skills. This step also requires them to infer.

Step Two: 
Have the students skip a line on their papers for step two.
NOW students may take the item out of the bag. Tell them: "REALLY Look at it." Here are some questions they might consider:

1. What is the item, and is it what you thought it would be?
2. Was it the color you thought it would be? Explain!
3. Now, use your language skills to describe this item. Consider: color, length, weight, height, texture, etc. Where might it have come from? Speak like a/n archaeologist, sociologist, anthropologist or paleontologist.

Step Three - Be Artistic! 
Have the students skip a line before step three.
Now students will use figurative language. Tell them that they are allowed to begin with silly or obvious similes or metaphors, but as a few minutes tick by, they should try to stretch their abilities. "Really push yourself. You may use simile, metaphor, personification, onomatopoeia, to describe the item's color, shape, texture, or other features."

*Step Four – Blow Their Minds! *
 Have the students skip a line before step four.
 Here is the surprise. Tell the students, "The item you are looking at? Well, I HATE TO TELL you this – the object isn't what you think it is AT ALL."

It is: 
A. a KEY to unlock something of great potential/power 
B. an object with a secret history, held by someone on his or her deathbed who is only able to tell its story to one person
C. a super-spy device of use in an important mission 
D. an object that will bring peace to a planet or a group 
E. essential for some civilization's utter survival 
F. An object whose carbon dating indicates it is much older and was used for something so important that it may change our understanding of things
G. Open idea based specifically on this discipline. Teacher’s choice, or students’ suggestions given in an open forum

I have a FREEBIE of this lesson that has options that go up to the letter "N." Please feel free to download the entire freebie.

 The Student GOAL IS TO WRITE A STORY USING ONE OF THESE OPTIONS.  Have characters, a goal, plot, dialog, etc.

Students will get at least to the beginning of Step Four by the end of the period. For homework or for class work on Day Two, have students write that story, and then share it with the class! I hope you enjoy this free resource. I know your students will. Feel free to stop by, pick it up, and like it or rate it!

Resources from Gina Perfetto's TpT Store:

  A free, downloadable resource. Includes the full instructions for the lesson described here.  Pick it up!  Rate it!

Provides the extended version of the 4-Senses Writing Lesson.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Free Resources from our March issue of the C.L.A.S.S. Newsletter

To subscribe, click HERE.

Provides a great reading strategy that engages every student.

Provides a mini-lesson to guide students through making a propaganda poster.

Provides a movie viewing guide for the classic film To Kill a Mockingbird.

Provides an overview for timelines and how time has been recorded and marked throughout history.

Provides activities to help your students increase their sentence fluency, word choice and voice.

Provides students with tools and links to take interactive "virtual field trips" to interesting and historical places.

Provides great free clip art for St. Patrick's Day.

Provides practice correcting run-on sentences.  ACT Prep.

Provides task cards to get your students moving, talking and reviewing for the English portion of most standardized tests.

Provides a grammar/punctuation lesson about using commas in a series.